Immune Monitor - March-April 2020

A Message from the President

Dear Colleagues,

The letter below was written before the COVID-19 pandemic transformed our lives. First, I hope all of you and your families are safe. For our members involved in delivery of health care, we are grateful for your courage, sacrifice and dedication to your patients. Many in our society are likely turning their attention to research focused on the COVID pandemic and to care of COVID patients. I am aware that many of you are cooperating with your infectious disease, critical care and pulmonary colleagues to secure the resources required to take care of as many infected patients as possible.

At the urging of two of our past Presidents (Jon Wigginton, MD, and Bernard Fox, PhD), the society has already taken steps to enable our members to exchange information on the pandemic, particularly how it impacts cancer care and patients receiving anti-cancer immunotherapy (see below). SITC members have substantial expertise in immunology and clinical trial methodology, and this experience in cancer could help our colleagues to reduce the overall impact of the pandemic. For example, translational studies to define the immunologic responses to the virus and identify abnormal/ineffective responses that fail to clear virus and/or produce immune-mediated pathology could lead to novel therapeutics. Our members are very familiar with the urgent need to find therapies for life-threatening diseases and can advocate to make potentially life-saving medications available to patients. At the same time, we can also advocate for developing therapies based on sound scientific evidence produced in high quality clinical research; in our own field, we are keenly aware of potentially misleading conclusions from anecdotal reports, uncontrolled trials and small randomized studies of therapeutic agents. We live in a time of amazing science, and I feel confident that science will rapidly produce effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines for this pandemic and the next pandemic we will face in the future.

So, on a note of optimism, we are proceeding with plans for a live Annual Meeting this year. In November, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) will welcome thousands of our most dedicated and accomplished basic scientists, translational researchers, clinicians and others to our 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2020). SITC member registration is officially open. In keeping with our commitment to promote early career development and in celebration of the society's 35th anniversary, all current student members of SITC will receive free registration to the 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting.

Please take note that SITC 2020 will take place on new days this year (Tuesday, Nov. 10–Sunday, Nov. 15), and we will return to the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

As in past years, the 2020 Annual Meeting will feature several keynote presentations delivered by investigators whose work opened new areas of investigation and transformed our field. Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD (Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins), will deliver her keynote address titled, Turning Immunologically Quiescent Tumors into Immune Responsive Cancers. And commemorating our society's 35th anniversary, Helen E. Heslop, MD (Baylor College of Medicine), will describe the current state of T-cell Therapy of Cancer in her keynote address.

We are also very much looking forward to the Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award and Lectureship, our society's highest award and named in honor of the SITC charter member. This fall, we honor three researchers whose contributions to the area of immune checkpoint inhibitors fundamentally changed the treatment of cancer: Lieping Chen, MD, PhD (Yale School of Medicine), Gordon Freeman, MD, PhD (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute), and Arlene Sharpe, MD, PhD (Harvard Medical School). I would like to thank this year's keynote speakers for sharing their expertise with SITC 2020 attendees and for their continued contributions in the field.

SITC 2020 will again include workshops and programs for an intense focus on specific scientific topics and for broader educational objectives. Our annual workshop, a pre-conference program, will delve more deeply into the rapidly expanding area of Engineering Immune Cells for Cancer Therapy. This year's industry program will address Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure for immune checkpoint inhibitors. Applications for consideration to present your research during the Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure Pre-Conference Program are also open, and are due on July 31, 2020, at 5 p.m. PDT. The Primer on Tumor Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy™ is a critical and timely educational program covering the basic principles and a variety of techniques within tumor immunology and immunotherapy. New for this year, the Primer will also touch on emerging therapies and technologies in the field.

In our society's continued effort to provide early career investigators with meaningful professional development and networking opportunities, SITC will again host a workshop on building skills to write successful grants; a Meet-the-Expert Lunch for attendees to connect with leaders in the field in a small group setting; and an evening early career scientist networking event. SITC's Career Connections program will return for a second year and will include a networking reception, on-site job board and other opportunities for attendees to connect directly (and don't forget to peruse our Online Job Board, available year-round). Further, SITC, through support from the Forward Fund, will present 35 travel awards to young investigators this year, recognizing their research achievements. The early career scientists will be honored during the Award Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 14. I will do my best to pronounce all the names correctly this year.

Please be sure to attend the 35th Anniversary Reception in celebration of the society's special anniversary year, which will take place the evening of Saturday, Nov. 14, at the National Museum of American History. This will be an amazing night of Washington D.C. fun and frolic and you will be able to celebrate 35 years of immense dedication to discovery and application of cancer immunotherapy with your colleagues in an impressive museum, and the night will include heavy hors d'oeuvres, drinks and dancing. Purchase your tickets through your SITC 2020 registration.

As outstanding research is a perennial highlight at our Annual Meeting, we hope you'll submit your work for consideration as an oral or poster abstract presentation. Submissions are now open for regular abstract and late-breaking abstract applications.

In celebration of our 35th anniversary, SITC will offer 35 Young Investigator Awards, all recognizing excellence in novel research and providing young investigators with the experience necessary for successful careers. SITC is also accepting research applications on immune checkpoint inhibitor resistance or failure for the opportunity to present during SITC 2020's Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure Pre-Conference Program.

We've covered only a small portion of the agenda that will make SITC 2020 another remarkable Annual Meeting. I will continue to provide updates about programing as the year progresses. Meanwhile, for those who have not yet signed up for a SITC membership in 2020, please do so now to receive access to the exclusive SITC 2020 members-only registration period and access to housing. Public registration opens on April 20. Click here to learn more about SITC 2020 registration or continue reading this month's edition of the Immune Monitor.

I look forward to seeing in National Harbor this Nov. 10–15 for SITC 2020.



Mario Sznol, MD

SITC President

COVID-19 Resources from SITC

As the world responds to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the oncology and immuno-oncology communities may face unique challenges in regards to patient care. It has also become apparent that the immunotherapy field may offer important insights that can be useful to the broader healthcare community during this time of need.

SITC is committed to providing important COVID-19 information for immuno-oncology professionals. Recently, the society launched an online COVID-19 resource hub that provides timely informational and essential tools as well as discussion forums tailored to both practicing clinicians and laboratory researchers in the immuno-oncology community.

Please consider participating in SITC's COVID-19 discussion forums for real-time sharing of observations and insights regarding basic and translational science related to SARS-CoV-2 and the clinical management of patients with COVID-19. You need not be a SITC member to access and post in these discussion forums; all are encouraged to participate. Simply create a free CONNECT online account when prompted. Access all of SITC's online COVID-19 resources, including the discussion forums, here.

SITC to host 35th Anniversary Meeting on Nov. 10–15

Member Registration and Housing is Now Open

SITC will welcome researchers, clinicians and others from around the cancer immunotherapy field to the 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting & Pre-Conference Programs (SITC 2020) in November! Taking place on new days this fall, SITC 2020 begins on Tuesday, Nov. 10 through Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md.

SITC student members will receive free registration in celebration of our anniversary year, and all other SITC members receive discounted, early access to registration beginning today. Once registered, attendees will be able to secure housing for the conference. Registration and housing opens to the general public on April 20. Click here to learn more about SITC 2020 registration and how to renew your membership to guarantee you early access to registration and housing.

Regular Abstract Submission and Late-Breaking Abstract Applications Now Open

SITC has begun accepting submissions of regular abstracts and late-breaking abstract applications for the 35th Anniversary Annual Meeting beginning. Present your work to the world's largest scientific conference dedicated solely to cancer immunotherapy! Click here to learn more about submission requirements.

Young Investigator Awards

In celebration of the society's 35th anniversary of advancing cancer immunotherapy worldwide, SITC will present 35 travel awards to young investigators recognizing excellence in novel research, providing young investigators with the experience necessary for successful careers and acknowledging the need for the next generation of cancer immunologists to engage with luminaries in the field. All awards are supported by the Forward Fund.

Regular abstracts with primary and presenting authors that are students, postdoctoral research fellows, clinical fellows, or junior faculty with three or fewer years on staff and are current SITC members, may be eligible to receive a Young Investigator Award. Young Investigator Award abstracts require a letter of recommendation as well as additional information regarding the percentage of contribution by the primary and presenting author. For more information about the Young Investigator Awards as well as the criteria and eligibility, please click here.

Thank You to Our SITC 2020 Organizers

Annual Program Committee Chair

  • Sandra Demaria, MD – Weill Cornell Medicine

35th Anniversary Annual Meeting Organizers

  • Helen E. Heslop, MD – Baylor College of Medicine
  • Brianna W. Hoffner, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP – Harborside
  • Miriam Merad, MD, PhD – Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

35th Anniversary Annual Meeting Program Committee Members

  • Ana Carrizosa Anderson, PhD – Harvard Medical School
  • Davide Bedognetti, MD, PhD – Sidra Medicine
  • Marianne Davies, DNP, AOCNP – Yale School of Nursing
  • Patrick Hwu, MD – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Immunotherapy Resistance and Failure

  • Kald Abdallah, MD, PhD– Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Edward Cha, MD, PhD  – Genentech
  • Leena Gandhi, MD, PhD  – Eli Lilly
  • Israel Lowy, MD, PhD  – Regeneron Pharmaceuticals

Primer on Tumor Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy™

  • Michael A. Curran, PhD – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Yvonne Saenger, MD – Columbia University Irving Medical Center

Workshop on Engineering Immune Cells for Cancer Therapy

  • Christine Brown, PhD – City of Hope
  • Katayoun Rezvani, MD, PhD – The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Marco Ruella, MD – University of Pennsylvania

Grant Writing Workshop

  • David Aggen, MD, PhD  – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Olivia Rongze Lu, PhD  – University of Texas at Austin
  • Claire Vanpouille-Box, PhD  – Weill Cornell Medical College
  • Grey Wilkinson, PhD  – Oncolytics Biotech Inc.

SITC Immunotherapy Resistance Definitions

In Spring 2019, SITC convened key stakeholders from academia, industry, government, and other like-minded societies in order to form expert consensus definitions for clinical resistance to PD-(L)1 checkpoint inhibitors. This highly successful meeting resulted in the recent publication of "Defining tumor resistance to PD-1 pathway blockade: recommendations from the first meeting of the SITC Immunotherapy Resistance Taskforce," in the Journal for Immunotherapy of Cancer (JITC). This important manuscript details resistance definitions in three clinical scenarios—primary resistance, secondary resistance, and progression after discontinuation of treatment—as well as suggests next steps the field should take in order to standardize data collection on immunotherapy resistance and advance clinical drug development. We look forward to these resistance definitions being incorporated into future immunotherapy clinical trials.

SITC views the topic of immunotherapy resistance as a priority for the society, and this workshop and manuscript are only the first steps. In order to continue the momentum of the meeting and subsequent publication, SITC recently formed an Immunotherapy Resistance Committee, whose primary charge is to expand definitions of resistance to other immunotherapy regimens, as well as to engage stakeholders concerning data sharing and accessibility to validate the generated definitions. This committee looks forward to continuing this important work on immunotherapy resistance to help advance the field and provide benefit to patients.

For more on this topic, view a presentation from Ryan J. Sullivan, MD, during SITC 2019's Update on the SITC PD-(L)1 Resistance Definitions:

2020 SITC Fellowship and Award Opportunities

Become a SITC member or renew your membership to grow your professional network, receive discounted registration rates to exemplary meetings, early access to housing and remain current with the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Join the SITC family or renew your membership today!